Free-Range Kids

Cop Arrests Mom for Letting Kids Wait in Car During 10-Minute Errand

Amanda Forst faces reckless endangerment charges for assuming her children—ages 2, 5, and 7—could survive a very short wait.

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The authorities should stop equating a rational parenting decision—letting your kids wait in the car a few minutes—with criminal wrongdoing. A great piece in The Appeal by Joshua Vaughn calls this practice a "new moral panic that targets moms." He opens with the shocking story of Amanda Forst, a Pennsylvania mom who let her three kids—ages 2, 5, and 7—wait in the car for ten minutes while she ran an errand inside a store:

While Forst was in the store, a passerby saw the children in the van and called county authorities. Cumberland County 911 dispatched [Sgt. Keith] Stambaugh, and Kohl's alerted shoppers about the children over the public address system. Forst ran out of the store and drove off because she feared that the police would take her children away, she later told Stambaugh. She returned to the store minutes after leaving and waited for the police to arrive.

When he arrived on the scene, Stambaugh arrested and charged Forst with three counts of reckless endangerment, three counts of leaving a child unattended in a vehicle and a count of careless driving. Forst's 10-minute errand now meant she was facing up to two years in jail.

Consider the state's logic: For the crime of separating from her kids for 10 minutes—which the authorities view as criminally dangerous—Mom could be forced to separate from her kids for two full years.

Vaughn goes on to trace the origin of our car-wait panic, which he believes began in the 1980s when "stranger danger" was first sweeping the country. Missing kids' pictures were put on milk cartons without anyone bothering to explain that the vast majority were runaways or taken by parents in contentious custody cases.

After that, the concern about hot cars started to grow. Hot cars are indeed a threat to child safety when the child is forgotten for a very long time. But the public has come to believe that any instance of a kid waiting in a car, however briefly, represents mortal danger. A brief wait is not only safe—it is safer than being taken out and crossing the parking lot. As truly gut-wrenching as cases of hyperthermia are, arresting moms who let their kids wait in the car for five minutes will not bring back the children forgotten there for five hours.

And yet, Vaughn writes:

Though the incident outside the Kohl's occurred nearly one year ago, Forst's case is still unresolved. In the meantime, she has incurred—and paid—hundreds of dollars in fines and fees, including nearly $200 for the county's plea fee, $50 for the cost of prosecution, $100 for the disposition program and $23 for an expungement fee.

In August, Forst is expected to enter an accelerated rehabilitative disposition program, in which she will spend the next six months to two years under probation-like supervision and perform community service with the expectation that the charges will be dismissed after successful completion. If Forst does not finish the program, Cumberland County District Attorney Skip Ebert could prosecute her.

It's time for this to stop. We can help turn the tide by demanding that parents not be arrested unless they show blatant disregard for their children's safety and put them in real danger.

NEXT: The Case for Sanctions Fails at Every Turn

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  1. This is ridiculous.

    1. Worse than ridiculous. It’s illegal to let your 3 live kids wait in the car 10 minutes for you, but it’s totally fine to grind up a human baby. It’s actually beyond fine if you ask many people, it’s a right they say.

    2. We are getting perilously close to a rational reason to execute cops and prosecutors.
      When you fuck with a family for no good reason – death is a reasonable outcome.

      1. I’ve wondered by more people don’t go berserk when the State attacks their family.

        It came to me. People with kids have too much to lose.

  2. BUT what if the store building collapsed while the mom was inside, and no one, including hundreds of first responders, noticed the children still waiting for mom, and then summer cam, and the kids roasted?
    What then?
    It is clearly time to admit no parent, or even a set of two parents, of any mathematically possible combination of assumed genders, is capable of properly raising a child, and just have the state take all children into custody upon release of the mother from the birth place. That way they can be raised responsibly in the proper socialist manner. As an additional benefit, after one generation, there will no longer be any racism, sexism, genderism, or personal freedom.

    1. cam = came

      1. Love the came cam…

        1. Who can turn a cam into a came? Silent E!

          1. Why did I try to sing this comment to the tune of The Candy Man?

    2. It is clearly time to admit no parent, or even a set of two parents, of any mathematically possible combination of assumed genders, is capable of properly raising a child, and just have the state take all children into custody upon release of the mother from the birth place.

      Sounds like _The Handmaid’s Tale_ or _Brave New World_.

    3. Sorry to whoever I flagged. Reasons mobile site sucks donkey balls and I was trying to close the annoying banner at the bottom of my screen.

      1. But, but, but it was redesigned! New CSS and big webdev bill means everything’s fine now!

      2. Chrome and adblock

    4. no parent, or even a set of two parents, of any mathematically possible combination of assumed genders

      No, it’s clear that this persecution is aimed at women. Where are the feminists decrying it?

  3. Who knew my mom was such a criminal. I was left (I asked to be) in the car many times for over a hour while my mom shopped and I decided a better use of my time was to read a book. I am just glad there are citizens/police making sure that no kid gets to read quietly while a mom gets a few moments of peace to shop.

    1. If you were 14, your mother had sound judgment in this context.

      If you were 5, your mother was a lousy parent and a dope.

      1. You are truly a terrible person. Your parody isn’t even effective. You should find other hobbies.

        1. His main hobby is hating Americans.

        2. That comment was equal parts absurd ad hominem and non sequitur.

          1. Not all insults are ad hominem. He’s wrong in this case, too, but that wasn’t what I was arguing.

            1. More non sequitur.

  4. People who succumb to moral panics ought to be made to sit in a hot car until they wise up. Same is true for busybody dogooders who have nothing better to do than roam around looking for poor chumps on whom they can sic the power of the state.

    1. The police are responsible, and the courts, and attorneys, and the asshole politicians who wrote this law, but fuck those busybody dogooder pieces of shit. These are the same door knobs that deputize themselves and drive at the speed limit in the left lane.

  5. I have an idea – let’s make it so that the identity of the tipster can be released in case of an unsuccessful prosecution. It would be like awarding attorney fees in a frivolous lawsuit. If you are going to call the cops on someone for leaving a kid in a car, you better be sure it’s a hot day, the windows are closed, the kid is too young to be able to get out of the car if it’s too hot, etc. or you may be facing an angry mob of the innocent parent’s friends and family.

    1. Or how about the cops just exercise some judgement, like they do with speeding tickets. They have no obligation to arrest, contrary to popular belief.

      1. Yeah, let’s leave it up to the paragons of good judgement, the TOP MEN of the enforcement arm of the state. I’m sure they’ll be reasonable in the future for some reason. Oh, I know, maybe more laws will help. Where the police are legally forbidden in this circumstance to smash the windows, arrest the parent, and separate the family— but in that circumstance (that our friendly high-IQ’d taser-bearers definitely understand) they’ll be required to arrest immediately! For the children of course.

        The rule of law is a joke.

    2. Do you still wonder why society routinely rejects your preferences, JohnTheRevelator?

      Leaving young children in a vehicle, even with the intention to return shortly, is substandard parenting. People with sound judgment recognize this.

      1. Leaving young children in a vehicle, even with the intention to return shortly, is substandard parenting.

        Ye gods, how did anyone survive to adulthood 10 or more years ago? I spent many a brief shopping trip sitting in the car as a child, as did many other commenters here and elsewhere. It was a better arrangement for both my mother and myself. I am sure that someone, somewhere once got kidnapped or overheated in a parked car, but most people, then and now, have enough sense to crack open a window. Some today are even wealthy enough to leave the car running with A/C on on a warm day.

        What the world rejects, as you can see anytime a story like this appears in the media, is your notion that busybody-ing is the way of the future.

        1. How does being left in a car – a CAGE – while parents go off and do whatever – constitute ‘free range parenting’?

          The whole point of free range parenting is that the kids are free to wander around and play. Not that the kids are belted in a cage while the parents are free to wander around and do errands.

          Yeesh people.

          1. If my kids are with me and I have to run in someplace and I ask if they’d like to come in with me or wait for me in the car, that’s very much free range parenting. It’s not a free for all, it’s treating kids with respect as to their choices and their individuality. Sometimes circumstances restrict what our choices are and kids are smart enough to recognize that especially if they’ve lived a life where their choices matter.

            As for being left in a cage, my sibs and I live being left in the car. We played some crazy games and usually had a really good time. Or a good fight. Either way, it was better than going into a boring store.

        2. Oh and BTW – I think my own childhood was very much ‘free range’. And I raised my own kids that way as much as possible. One of the main benefits of that was that I (and they) almost NEVER were trudged around to do errands. Grocery store and that was about it. They played at home or around the neighborhood. Sometimes in some activity which they could get to – sometimes with playmates where us parents who had similar ideas about letting kids play could split the oversight (and thus our own errands). Which meant we could do errands MUCH faster without dragging reluctant kids around and without needing to lock em in a car in a parking lot.

          Busybodying is only the wave of the future if locking kids in a cage in a parking lot is the wave of the future. There’s no question that that ‘free range’ option is a lot more difficult now. But it’s not because its more difficult to drag kids around when you’d prefer not to even do that. It’s because we’ve turned those neighborhoods where we live into rat runs for obese vehicles and thus massively reduced the area within which we can let kids wander around and play the way kids play. Can’t cross this street. Can’t cross that street. Can’t play in the front yard. Can’t get to the playmates house. Can’t play ball in that other area cuz its too close to X Y Z. THAT is the problem with free range now and is what needs fixing.

    3. Oh yeas, it would just be so much better if the people who saw the kids, but had no idea how long they had been in the car or how long they would remain in the car to just assume everything would be alright and go on their way. As Kitty Genovese would say “I wish all those do-gooders would just mind their own business.”

  6. What was the temperature and were the windows up or the ac running? If the doors were locked and the children at no reasonable risk from heat then I can find no fault. Details like that make a difference for me even if we’re only looking at 10 minutes

    1. There is no thinking allowed.

    2. I agree. Though personally I think 2 is too young to be left unaccompanied by at least a sibling who is old enough to babysit. (not a 7 year old) But the mom shouldn’t get in trouble unless they were actually being harmed

      1. ‘No harm, no foul’ is a childish standard in this context.

    3. Leaving three children, the oldest of them 7, in a 4,000 or more pound vehicle with the engine running presents a whole different suite of hazards.

    4. The important thing is that a member of the public Saw Something and Said something so that they and the State could insert themselves and investigate. As seen throughout this thread, it takes a village to raise a child, and no one’s children are just their own. Multiple opinions must be inserted— by force, if necessary— to ensure an acceptable by-the-book outcome.

  7. Obviously the solution is to have paid parental leave so that one parent can go shopping while the other parent takes care of the children.

    For our much celebrated single parent households, they should be provided with a government employee to watch the children while shopping is performed.

    It’s for the children!

    1. Force Kohl’s and the Walmart to have drop in child care…

      1. Staffed by certified teachers, MDs and RNs, in certified and inspected facilities, offering gender-neutral activities and vegan snacks, and all under union contract (paying 2x the local median wage).

        1. You sound like someone who has been made cranky by all of this damned progress, tolerance, science, education, reason, inclusivity, and modernity during the most recent half-century or so of American progress.

      2. It should be drive through child care, so the kids never need to leave the safety of their vehicles. Oh wait…

  8. I left my 12 year old in the car for 2 mins to pick up a pizza this weekend and had think for a minute if it was going to cause a ruckus. Crazy times.

    1. I left my 12 year old in the car for 2 mins to pick up a pizza this weekend and had think for a minute if it was going to cause a ruckus. Crazy times.

      I tell mine to be on the lookout for perverts and peepers and that he’s got his own phone if there’s any trouble.

    2. Entirely different situation, this woman did not run into a strip center storefront to pick up one item that was already waiting for her, with the kids visible through the plate glass window. She went into Kohl’s, a department store, “to buy a few things.” How much time do you think the average woman spends in a department store? I’ll bet it’s a lot more than 10 minutes. The kids may (or may not) have only been in the car 10 minutes before someone noticed them and got the store to make the announcement, and I am sure “I was only going to leave them for 10 minutes” is what she told the cops, but that nice round number is probably a lot less than those kids would have ended up staying in the car if someone hadn’t noticed them.

  9. How long before vehicles are required to have a feature that detects unattended children and calls the police?

    1. The next election, according to all the democratic candidates.
      Of course, the car will be sitting in the driveway, as all roads will have turned into either bike paths or high speed rail.

  10. Also, time to get tinted windows to keep the nosy assholes away.

    1. See above.

      Dateline needs to run some specials with bait cars. Whoever these people are lurking about parking lots telling on other people’s kids need to be hunted down.

      If we were talking about 2 yr. olds, I get it. But we aren’t saving 2 yr. olds… we’re infantalizing 7 yr. olds, arresting their moms, and letting anonymous troublemakers get away with it.

      1. This case, as described, involved a two-year-old.

        1. And a 7 year old.

          2 years old and strapped in a car seat is a different worry. 7 years old means you can open the door and find help if necessary.

          1. And that’s why so many 7 year olds have their own babysitting services, because a 7 year old is TOTALLY mature enough to take care of a 2 year old in the event of an emergency.

            1. In the context of minutes in a car wherein the 2-year-old is strapped in a seat, well, yeah, they probably are. I imagine my 5-year-old could handle it if he had a fallback means of communication (like a cell phone).

              Is that the same as hours being responsible for the feeding, control, entertainment, and general care of one or more semi-familiar children in a semi-familiar setting? No, it is not.

              1. Oh right, you’re still believing that this woman walked into a department store with the intent to “buy a few things” for “just ten minutes.”

                1. So it is your assertion that the state should be empowered to make assumptions as to one’s intentions and then apply those assumptions toward an accusation of criminality.

                  My kid sleeps for hours alone in his room (with the door shut, the horrors!) . What if someone breaks in his window? Or car or a plane crashes into the house? Or any other number of exceedingly unlikely things?

                  In this case the emergency was the cops showing up. If she’d dragged them all through the parking lot (or tried to; maybe one wanders off while she’s unbuckling another?) the emergency might have been one getting hit by a car. Somehow I don’t think you’re willing to consider that calculus in the face of how good it makes you feel to clutch your pearls.

                  1. More straw man fallacy from you. Police are empowered to enforce the law when they see it being violated. Pennsylvania state law says “A person driving or in charge of a motor vehicle may not permit a child under six years of age to remain unattended in the vehicle when the motor vehicle is out of the person’s sight” – there is no time threshold given, so the mother’s claim to have only gone in for 10 minutes is immaterial to whether she broke the letter of the law. The police didn’t have to make assumptions about the woman’s intent, all they had to do was observe the fact that these children had been left unattended in a motor vehicle in front of a department store, where they would be out of sight of anyone in the department store. The only reason the author, you, or anyone else is clutching to this “it was only 10 minutes” assertion is so you can say “well isn’t that a ridiculous application of the law” – but what you’re calling for is police officers, upon seeing a violation of the letter of the law, is to make assumptions about a person’s truthfulness and intentions when deciding whether to enforce the law. You’re actually guilty of the very thing you’re falsely accusing me of.

                  2. A child in the same house as you is not “unattended” by any stretch of the imagination. And you’re now comparing possible but low probability events to the scientific certainty that when a car is left in a parking lot on a summer day, the temperature WILL raise quickly to dangerous levels. Your arguments are getting more and more desperate and unhinged.

  11. A type example of our social decline:

    1. Start with an inflated if not completely false perception of risk.
    2. Mix with equal parts busy-body and righteous intrusion into the affairs of others.
    3. Serve up another component of nanny state policing.

    1. 4. allow unconstitutional anonymous reports to avoid righteous indignation by the sane parts of the general public over the busybody reporters. Now that pervert has the exact address where there are children ripe for sex trafficking, as mom will be at mandatory parole officer meetings and court mandated ‘counseling’.

  12. In the meantime, she has incurred—and paid—hundreds of dollars in fines and fees…

    This is the reason petty crimes like this have creeped to the level they have. If it was illegal to slap fees and fines on the yet-to-be-convicted, no LEO would bother to answer a call about something like this.

    1. That is bizarre logic, the woman agreed to an alternative to adjudication program that required her to pay the fines but kept this from going on her record. She was perfectly able to fight it and get her day in court if she had so desired, and then wouldn’t have had to pay the fines unless convicted.

      1. She was perfectly able to fight it

        Citation, please. I’m especially interested in the comparison of legal fees and her ability and willingness to pay them, balanced against the risk of an unsympathetic jury.

        1. “Citation please” – uh, the Due Process Clause of the 5th Amendment? Nobody forced her to take a plea deal. Every single person who finds themselves charged with a crime and offered a plea deal has to decide between the negatives of pleading guilty/no contest vs the cost and uncertainty of going to court. But that doesn’t change the fact that she was in fact perfectly able to fight it.

          1. Perfectly legally allowed to attempt to fight it, sure. But if you think that prosecutors don’t stack charges to intimidate people into accepting plea deals, you’re… well, you’re exactly the type of person I’d expect to keep making these shallow arguments. Oh, and wrong.

            1. In this case the woman was charged with three counts (one per child) of leaving a child unattended in a motor vehicle. The law specifically states “It is a separate offense for each child left unattended. ” All your speculation about “prosecutors stacking charges to intimidate people into accepting plea deals” is irrelevant to this case. The fact remains, she could have fought the charge, but the statutory language is clear and the facts, which were undisputed by her, clearly demonstrated she violated that law. The plea deal was a gift.

              It looks like you’re adding ipse dixit to the list of logical fallacies you’re relying on here, proclaiming my arguments “shallow” and “wrong” without justification or explanation.

      2. “agreed”, under threat of men with weapons threatening to cage her.

        You need to work on that concept of “consent” a little harder.

        1. Dial down the melodrama a little, you’re currently at 11. You are also obviously grossly ignorant of how the criminal justice system works. “Men with weapons” didn’t arrest her that day and say “agree to this plea deal or we’ll throw you into this cage”. For that level of crime, she was almost assuredly given a DAT (desk appearance ticket) giving her a date and time to appear in court for arraignment and then released the same day she was arrested. She would have had plenty of time to consult with an attorney, and then might have been offered the plea deal (through her attorney) when she arrived for the arraignment, and time to consult with her attorney on whether to take the deal. This would have all happened in a courtroom, and even if she rejected the deal, for a crime like this she still would have been free to go home that night, still no “men with weapons” “throwing her in a cage” for not accepting the deal. The case probably would not have gone to trial for a few months, and during that time she’d still likely be able to change her plea and accept the deal. At no time would she be forced to make the decision to accept the deal under duress, so did so with full consent.

          1. Do you think that weapons only work while drawn and pointed, or do have the capacity for understating the concept of implication? I’d be very surprised if the cops who arrested her were unarmed, and I’d be even more surprised if her experience with the court was themed with notions of a voluntary arrangement. The notion that statists always speak in ideals and intentions seemingly without any connection to the human condition never ceases to baffle me.

            1. You’re evading the issue once again. She was not offered the plea deal by or even in the presence of the arresting officers, so the claim that they had any influence on her accepting the plea deal, that she wasn’t capable of full measured consent when considering the deal is absolutely asinine. She wouldn’t have been put in jeopardy of incarceration as a result of not accepting the plea deal, she was in jeopardy of incarceration because by her own admission she broke the law. The plea deal was a gift. Pennsylvania state law is very clear, ” person driving or in charge of a motor vehicle may not permit a child under six years of age to remain unattended in the vehicle when the motor vehicle is out of the person’s sight” – the police had a credible report of the children being left unattended in a motor vehicle, and then the mother told the police that she had gone inside a department store, which would have put the vehicle out of her site. The facts were not in dispute, and met the letter of the law as a violation of that law. Again, the plea deal was a gift.

      3. It may not be on an official court record, but she is forever guilty in the court of social media. I say fight it out each and every time, and claim the person who reported it only did so after the kids threatened to call the cops because a sex trafficker was peering in the car windows.

        1. That would be stupid and people would know she was lying, so how would that help her in “the court of social media?”

  13. Problem is that parking lots are not really a ‘safe place’. Drivers view them as ‘the street’ and most drivers suck and are distracted and with the size increase of SUV’s compared to cars and/or humans, kids become invisible. So if for whatever reason kids get out of the car and onto the parking lot, then they are very vulnerable to being hit by cars backing out of parking spaces, swinging into parking spaces where SUV’s next to them are concealing the view, and being hit by cars that aren’t paying much attention because the driver is focused on finding a parking spot.

    Fatality/injury stats specifically re kids show that those two types of ‘hit by vehicle’ – split evenly between backing over the kid and rolling over the kid – are FAR more common than hyperthermia. 27 hyperthermia deaths v 200+ fatalities and 7,000 injuries. That may still be too low for anyone else to rationally give a shit and call the cops (compared to say 50,000 injuries to kids from closing the car door and 11,000 from getting into and out of the car). But it is a disservice to pretend that the main issue is hyperthermia when it isn’t.

    We have created this problem by allowing residential streets to become subordinated to vehicles. Which means that it is tougher for kids to wander the neighborhoods, play with others, or go to activities on their own. So moms (usually) then end up having to drag the kids around as cargo when running errands.

    1. Problem is that parking lots are not really a ‘safe place’.

      I kinda feel like I’d be breaking the news to you that just because your parents encouraged you to play in busy streets and parking lots doesn’t mean all parents do that. If my 6 yr. old dog can figure out how to cross the street on his own, I’m exceedingly certain my 6 yr. old kid, with training and guidance, can too.

      From your own data:

      These fatalities and injuries include an estimated
      218 fatalities and 10,000 injuries to children that occurred
      in nontraffic crashes such as single-vehicle crashes on private
      roads, collisions with pedestrians on driveways, and
      two-vehicle crashes in parking facilities.

      Notable that single-vehicle collisions in parking facilities and single vehicle crashes on public roadways (which is what most residential streets are) are mysteriously absent. It’s a disservice to slew the problem across parking lots, private roads, and public streets when that’s not where the problem is.

      The only redeeming value of your post is the point that a car in motion is *far* more likely to kill your child, inside or outside the car, than anything happening to them sitting inside the car.

      1. It’s a disservice to slew the problem across parking lots, private roads, and public streets when that’s not where the problem is

        That’s not a disservice. Those stats are only NON-TRAFFIC and NON-CRASH incidents. Those are qualitatively different incidents than highway type crashes involving kids as occupants or kids crossing or biking along streets in traffic – which would bury the problem unless the problem is broken into subsets (which is the very definition of ‘analysis’).

        And it’s not ‘public streets’ that are included as the third type of non-traffic non-crash – it’s driveways. People perceive the highway-subset or hit-by-traffic as an entirely different issue and deal with it differently. People pretty clearly don’t even perceive the incidents I cited as an issue at all -since the thing mentioned in this article (hyperthermia) is the only risk mentioned when in fact it is hyperthermia that is irrelevant.

        a car in motion is *far* more likely to kill your child, inside or outside the car, than anything happening to them sitting inside the car.

        And you are completely clueless if you think kids will always remain where they are told to remain. Kids will be kids. The author even implicitly recognizes the danger of parking lots when she writes A brief wait is not only safe—it is safer than being taken out and crossing the parking lot, but there is no recognition of the corollary – leaving a kid in a car means you are leaving the decision to wander around the parking lot UP TO THEIR JUDGMENT ALONE.

        As a driver, I have experienced kids wandering around in parking spots. Haven’t hit them – but they are quite invisible and obviously not aware of that. I’m certain their parents did not leave them outside in parking spots. They were most certainly left in the car and told to wait in the car – and didn’t. Them getting out of the car then creates a liability for me (which is much less important than the more obvious risk to them).

        1. That’s not a disservice.

          My bad I didn’t realize it was this simple.

          But it is a disservice to pretend that the main issue is hyperthermia when it isn’t.

          That’s not a disservice.

          There, now your irrelevant comments about “residential streets”, “private roads”, and “driveways” as well as your inane banter about kids wandering around parking lots, apparently while all the adults are peering in car windows checking on them, are *completely* meaningless.

          1. I look forward to YOUR analysis re how many moms are actually busted for leaving their kids in the car while they do errands.

            Until then – I’m the only one providing actual info while you are chanting ideological memes to an anecdote.

    2. Oh – and the reason they include ‘two-car crashes in parking facilities’ is so they can include the specific data of 9 fatalities and 5,000 injuries for ‘kid occupant in a non-traffic crash’. ie someone else hitting your parked car while the kids ARE obeying your order to remain in the car. Yes the fatality risk of that is near non-existent – but that is 5,000 more injuries than if the car was empty.

  14. Riding in a car itself is WAY more dangerous than being left in one.

    1. Riding in a car itself is WAY more dangerous than being left in one.

      Close proximity to asphalt and/or concrete is problematic.

  15. Not that this is the point of the article, but she was charged a fee to enter a plea??

    1. She was charged a fee to enter into a deferred adjudication plea deal program. Like the fees you have to pay the court to allow you to take defensive driving instead of having a ticket go on your driving record.

      1. Lots of money coming into the courts. It’s a good system.

        1. By the tone of your throwaway comment, you are obviously aware of the fact that it’s irrelevant to the discussion, but for some reason felt compelled to throw it out there anyway.

  16. “Consider the state’s logic: For the crime of separating from her kids for 10 minutes—which the authorities view as criminally dangerous—Mom could be forced to separate from her kids for two full years.”

    Please consider your own logic with this statement. I agree with you but this reminds me of one of those screeching leftest arguments about basic human rights or some nonsense.

  17. Does the author suggest that a citizen, or public officer, who observes children (in this circumstance, ages two to seven),

    (a) wait, as a babysitter, to determine when and whether an adult will return

    or

    (b) depart, assuming someone will care for the children in a timely manner?

    People who confuse libertarianism with appeasement of child abuse are among my favorite faux libertarians.

    1. Well said.

    2. Does a citizen who notices an electrical storm approaching,
      (a) wait, as a babysitter, to ensure that no one in the vicinity is struck by lightening

      or

      (b) depart, assuming that 100% of the people and structures in the vicinity will survive unscathed because injury by lightening strike is exceedingly rare?

      1. or
        (c) upon noticing that a 7 year old, 5 year old, are all playing outside unattended as the storm approach, shrug his shoulders and think to himself “I’m sure their mother will be along in ten minutes,” and depart.

        1. So you really do believe that sitting in a stationary car in public is tantamount to being exposed “as the storm approaches.”

          Yes, I guarantee you that if my 5 year old was outside unattended and “the storm” was violent enough to be worrisome, he would drag his little brother inside immediately. It’d all be very dramatic and we’d chuckle about it later; he’s a kid after all.

          But this whole thing is stupid— how much untold misery and expense has been wasted on prohibiting adults from having certain plants? I’m pretty sure that, if a cop actually thinks there’s actual harm, he can afford to wait for quite a while to make sure things are ok. Unless he has quotas to attend to. Or especially if smashing the window might make him a hero. Then of course those things are higher priorities.

          1. Lightning killed 16 people last year, while 52 children died in hot cars, with a few hundred more surviving but requiring hospitalization for heat stroke.

            Your “I guarantee you if my 5-year old…” answer evades the issue that it is reasonable for a bystander to be concerned about the safety of children left unattended in a potentially hazardous situation. Your comment about prohibiting certain plants is off-topic and irrelevant to the conversation. Your comment about “if a cop actually thinks there’s actual harm, he can afford to wait a while” betrays both an ignorance of resource management in police forces and the general concept of law enforcement. Law enforcement officers’ duty is to enforce violations of the law as they see them happen, not wait until it appears that physical harm from such violations is imminent before deciding to act, and having officers regularly “wait around” to see would tie up officers who can be better used maintaining a patrol presence and responding to the next call.

    3. Why am I not surprised that the America Hater thinks parent should be jailed if they don’t monitor their children every second of every day?

  18. I think people should think about this situation a little more deeply before jumping the gun with the “omygod the nanny state!” hysterics:
    1. The article says this incident occurred “nearly one year ago”. It’s mid-June now, so “nearly one year ago” means July, maybe even August, in the middle of the heat of summer. Kids have died in hot cars when it was as low as 63 degrees outside, and the average temperature increase in a car after 10 minutes is 19 degrees.

    2. Even if she did leave the engine running so the AC would be on, leaving three kids, the oldest of them 7, in a 4,000 or more pound vehicle with the engine running presents a whole different set of serious hazards.

    3. It’s not like this woman ran inside to pick up her dry cleaning with the kids visible through the plate glass window the whole time. She went into Kohl’s, a department store. How much time do you think the average woman spends in a department store? I’ll bet it’s a lot more than 10 minutes. The kids may (or may not) have only been in the car 10 minutes before someone noticed them and got the store to make the announcement, and I am sure “I was only going to leave them for 10 minutes” is what she told the cops, but that nice round number is probably a lot less than those kids would have ended up staying in the car if someone hadn’t noticed them.

    4. Despite the article’s histrionic recounting that the mother “could have” spent 2 years in prison, she will serve no time at all, she has to do some community service and is out of pocket a few hundred dollars, and it goes off her record once she fulfills the alternate adjudication requirements. Seems like a reasonable consequence that may make this woman stop and use better judgement from now on.

    1. I’ll bet

      I just love these arguments that rest entirely on some nobody’s general guess about a general category of the population. If you’re going to claim that her number is arbitrary (and untrue, to boot) you’d better be suggesting some number that isn’t arbitrary and then justifying it. Of course you can’t, so all you have is evening news-brand paranoia.

      To your latter point, “better judgement” (ostensibly dragging her kids through the parking lot) is more dangerous, as the fine article pointed out. Random people, some with guns, inserted themselves into this woman’s familymember’s lives and the outcome is to force her to act in a more dangerous manner, all so that a sense of subordinate normative “mom behavior” can make uninvolved people feel better. That’s perverse.

      1. Many, that was a tortured and awkwardly worded first paragraph. You twisted yourself into pretzels trying to come up with a way to criticize me there. It’s amusing how you’re pretending that human beings have infallible sense of how long an activity like going to a store “to buy a few things”, an infallible sense of how much time has elapsed while they are in the middle of said activities, and such durations are always a nice round figure like “ten minutes”.

        What’s interesting too is how inconsistent yours and many people’s logic is. You all accuse others of exaggerating the hazards of the world on the one hand, but then you depict parking lots as blood-spattered killing fields if you think that will advance your point. You argue “well I was left alone in a car, and I didn’t die, so it’s obviously safe,” yet you fail to mention that you weren’t killed walking through a parking lot either. You argue that police and bystanders who see children all alone should just take it on faith that their parents knew what they were doing when they left them unattended and unsupervised on one hand, but you don’t think that parents are capable of supervising and ushering their children safely through a parking lot.

        1. Many, that was quite the projection there. I am not terribly interested in criticizing you specifically, but as a parent I am very invested in shutting down insane ideas that give the state license to destroy families for the sake of appearances. If you’re unable to comprehend my writing perhaps you could ask your mom to explain it.

          No one is depicting parking lots as “blood-spattered killing fields.” What people are citing is a field of study called “probability.” It’s a way of judging the likelihood of a non-deterministic event coming to pass. When people say, “but they could have been _____” they are making an assertion that such a thing has a significant likelihood of coming to pass such that it’s worth altering action for.

          What is being argued here is that the other side of the binary decision carries an even greater (though still tiny) probability of coming to pass. As such, if it’s dangerous to leave your kids in the car, but even more dangerous to drag them* all into the store, leaving the children in the car is a reasonable choice to make.

          The fact that this must be explained to you is not proof that your arguments are invalid. That would be an ad-hominem. However, it is very embarrassing for you, and should probably make you stop to consider whether you’ve examined a situation deeply before spouting off about how other people should be treated.

          * and how many; does the probability of tragedy correlate to the number of kids one has to unbuckle and manage? To the number of adults available to manage said children? Maybe women of n kids should just stay out of public without their husbands?

          1. You’re descending into more and more inane word salads as you spin your wheels on this. All your feints of “this must be explained to you…it is very embarrassing for you” etc. are transparent chestbeating to try to compensate for the paucity of logic in your arguments.

            First, let’s look at the law:
            “A person driving or in charge of a motor vehicle may not permit a child under six years of age to remain unattended in the vehicle when the motor vehicle is out of the person’s sight and under circumstances which endanger the health, safety or welfare of the child. ”

            You want to talk about “probabilities”, but let’s talk about scientific certainties. It is a scientific certainty that a car left out in a parking lot in the middle of a summer day will increase in temperature, ultimately to a level which is unhealthy for child who remains in that car.

            The law is written to forbid leaving a child in a car unattended and out of site to prevent them from being exposed to those circumstances, among others. The law is written without any time threshold (eg “for a period of greater than 10 minutes”), because it is common sense that in most cases police and the courts would have no way of knowing when the child or children were first left in the car, and would have to take the defendants’ word for it that it was less than 10 minutes, which would render the law in most cases unenforceable.

            All your parrying and smokescreens about parking lots is irrelevant. The law that was enforced here was written to address one particular problem: that leaving children unattended in motor vehicles subjects them to a certain set of hazards, which have led to tragic results. The solution is not to allow them to be left unattended in motor vehicles. Safety in parking is an entirely different issue. Obviously it would be neither desirable or practical to ban parents from walking their children through parking lots, children must on many occasions walk through parking lots, when going to doctors appointments, etc. Walking through parking lots carries unavoidable risks because children have to walk through parking lots at times. Leaving children in cars unattended carries avoidable risks because it is never necessary nor unavoidable to leave a child unattended in a car, you always have the possibility of taking the child with you. Then there is also the principle in our society that children are supposed to be supervised to mitigate the risk of harm coming to them. A parent walking a child through a parking lot is there with the children to mitigate the risk of walking through the parking lot, watch out for cars for the child, physically restrain the child if necessary, ie respond to the situation in real time. Leaving children unattended in a car violates this principle because the parent is not there to even notice, let alone react to a changing situation in real time; to notice that the temperature inside the car has become uncomfortably hot faster than the parent would have expected it to, to respond or be a deterrent to the person who might attempt to abduct unattended children, etc.

            Back to the situation of Amanda Forst – by her own admission, she left her children unattended in a motor vehicle on a summer day so that she could enter a department store, where they and the car would be out of her sight. These facts are not in contention. Pennsylvania law says that you cannot do that, not for any length of time, and this law has been on the books since 1991, well before any “moral panic” about kids dying in hot cars. Criticism of the bystanders for reporting a prima facie violation of the law is beside the point, criticism of the police for enforcing a prima facie violation of the law is beside the point. You can criticize the law all you want, but it is not the result of a “moral panic”, and you can argue about the dangers of walking through parking lots until you are blue in the face, but this law was intended to prevent a perfectly avoidable hazard (vs the general often unavoidable hazard of walking through parking lots), and is in accordance with the sound principle that small children should be supervised in public places.

    2. It’s horrifying to read presumed grown ups treating the universe as if it’s some hellscape of terror for children requiring second by second protection from a parent.

      1. It’s horrifying to read presumably educated people resorting to straw man mischaracterizations of what other people said instead of coming up with well-reasoned responses to what they actually said.

  19. I would not leave young kids such as these in a car like this woman did. Young children cannot be trusted to always do what is logical and could leave the car on their own.

    1. How would that not apply to every fucking place in the universe a kid might be?

      1. It DOES apply to every place in the universe where a kid could be. Rule of thumb is one minute of attention span in an unfocused situation for each year of age – two once they start school. That’s the amount of time it will take for them to forget what you told them to do if they’re bored – and to do something else more interesting instead.

        From that point on, the situation they are in and their ability to deal with that sort of situation on their own are the only things that matter. Which means ‘where you leave them’ is damn important. A strange parking lot is a pretty crappy place. Everyone knew this back in the day when many stores had the mechanical pony/car/etc rides out in front and restaurants had playgrounds. But those are gone now too and they sure as hell won’t return if parents justify locking the kids in the parking lot as ‘kids are just fine here’.

        Even with those other distractions back in the day, parents didn’t drag their kids around on errands all the time. Being in their own neighborhood IS a situation kids know how to deal with better and they can be a lot freer to do stuff there. Course that takes a bit of an upfront time investment by parents so they know their own neighborhood. Like taking their kids for a walk to explore and meet. That too is disappearing.

  20. Maybe whoever let the passerby out into the world by his/herself should be punished. That person is not equipped to handle seeing normal things in the world without calling authorities and making them worse.

    1. That’s my vote.

  21. This is not limited to children. Once, I left my 2 adult Labrador Retrievers in a car on the second floor of a shopping center. It was an 85 degree Southern California day but the car was not in the sun so no danger from a hot car. However, when I returned to the car, two LA Police were waiting to talk to me. They told that some busybody had called the police about the endangered dogs. They agreed that the dogs where no endangered. When asked why they were still there, they told me that they had to have an encounter with me to close their call. An absurd waste of law enforcement time.

    1. In Texas they would’ve shot the dogs, put a ticket on the windshield and left.

  22. Gosh, if my mom were of childrearing age today she’d be in prison.

    1. Me and my sister reminisce on having to wait in the car while my mom would get her haircut.

      It was often very hot. “So stinking hot”.

      We were actually just whiners. We lived in Hawaii and had no idea what 100 degrees was. Though Hawaii was very humid.

  23. Years ago, I had a non consensual contact with a cop. He determined I wasn’t guilty of any crime or infraction, but he also felt I failed to be 100% submissive to his authratah.
    So he ‘detained’ me in the back of his squad car with the windows up, AC off, for about 15 minutes while he stood in the shade of a tree. It was about 110° that summer day. He said I needed a lesson.

    1. I hope you filed a complaint against him.

  24. “She returned to the store minutes after leaving and waited for the police to arrive.”

    Fucking moron. Let them come to you.

  25. Law enforcement should not be allowed to arrest or detain any citizen who is not actively committing a violence offense that is actively hurting some one in a physical manner. Anything else is either over each by law enforcement (often at the push of government that seeks to increase income raised from fining its citizens) or can wait to be dealt with in court. Even things like failure to pay taxes should never incur arrests. Too often these excessive abuses by law enforcement benefit no one but the law enforcement agency seeking to meet quotas and the government agencies that benefit from fines collected by the actions that law enforcement takes. From outlandish ordinances to outdated laws everything that is passed as some form of rule should have a sunset clause on it. If its something worth persisting then it will get passed again and again but if its crap that somehow managed to get into the laws thanks to some special interest or out of control politician then at least it will be short lived.

    1. Actively breaking into a bank in the middle of the night when nobody is there? Hey, he’s not actively hurting someone in a physical manner. Don’t arrest him, just give him a ticket and trust him to show up in court. Right. Wow, the lack of reasoning ability among so many people who read and comment on “Reason.com” is staggering.

      1. sigh… drink.

        1. You were up at 2:30 AM responding to this? I’m thinking you were already drinking. Maybe a chronic problem for you, and would explain your lack of intellectual coherence.

          1. Not everyone is independently wealthy like you (or living on the dole, as the case may be).
            Some people have third shift jobs that allow casual use of a computer while monitoring semi-automated machinery.
            Other people live in different time zones.

            1. I wish I were independently wealthy, but right now I am what my consulting firm calls “on the beach” – just finished up one project, waiting for the next one to come down the pipe. Unless he’s in Hawaii, 2:00 AM CDT is still an ungodly hour in any other time zone in the US. “Casual use of a computer while monitoring semi-automated machinery” – sounds like a real thinking man’s job. Explains the quality of 0X1000’s logic.

  26. How would all of you so incensed by this story feel if the story said all three children were kidnapped while she ran her errand. The oldest was 7. What 7 yr old is responsible enough to watch a 2 & 5 yr old? If the oldest was 12-13, then I would agree the charges were unwarranted. A parent who leaves three kids under 10 alone in a car for any reason is not one who deserves sympathy because they are an idiot.

    1. How would all of you so incensed by the people who want individual autonomy in decision making for their children feel if the story said all three children were run over by an old lady on their way into the store? Do you have any idea how many Alzheimer’s and stroke patients are still driving their Lincoln Continentals around half blind?

      Some people are more worried about what the actors on the evening news tell them to fear. Other people are more worried about the elderly people they see driving themselves home from their hospital stay. TxJack112 doesn’t care, though; he’ll make the final call for everyone and enforce it with violence. Progress.

      1. “How would all of you so incensed by the people who want individual autonomy in decision making for their children feel if the story said all three children were run over by an old lady on their way into the store? Do you have any idea how many Alzheimer’s and stroke patients are still driving their Lincoln Continentals around half blind?”

        More kettle logic by you. On hearing that a feeble old lady ran over the kids, most reasonable people wouldn’t think “oh, the mother should have left the kids in the car, then they would have been safe,” instead, they would think “it’s time we start requiring the elderly to start demonstrating they still have the faculties to drive safely.” In fact, there have already been calls to require people over a certain age to have to get their licenses renewed more frequently, and require eye and skill tests at each renewal. It’s a very reasonable proposal.

  27. Only common sense solution:
    Mandate that all persons designated as a ‘parent’ by any legal authority remain inside a dwelling with any and all children in their care until a child is over 18. A sole exception would be allowing them to be conveyed to a proper public school staffed by union members who vote democrat at all times. If that ‘parent’ does not have another person willing to provide food and clothing (provide as in go and get and bring back), then the state should subsidize an Amazon Prime account so all necessities can be delivered. In addition to eliminating children left in cars, this will eliminate half of the cars, making it a green initiative, by definition self funding through reduced global climate warming change.

  28. […] [Robby Soave] “Cop Arrests Mom for Letting Kids Wait in Car During 10-Minute Errand” [Lenore Skenazy] “A Mother Spends a Week in Jail, Is Fired From Her Job, and Temporarily Loses Her Kids After […]

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